The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua is an historical mystery and thriller that perfectly combines the world’s events at the end of World War with the struggles and issues in the northern California community of Berkeley.  The plot centers around Homicide Detective Al Sullivan, who is enjoying an after dinner drink at the famed Claremont Hotel, when in an upstairs suite, a presidential candidate, Walter Wilkinson, has two assassination attempts on his life within an hour.  The second attempt proves fatal.  The candidate was despised by many and when Sullivan heads up the case, there are a number of suspects and theories that rise to the top of his list.

More than a decade earlier, another scandal at the Claremont Hotel was the talk of the town.  This scandal involved the death of a seven year old child from the renowned Bainbridge family, whose wealth and status were at the peak of San Francisco society.  While investigating the current case of Wilkinson, Detective Sullivan finds clues at the crime scene that harken back to the Bainbridge incident, linking the cases back to the surviving heiresses of the family.

After Wilkinson’s death, another murder occurs that has Sullivan perplexed as to how these events could be tied together and how they may impact the United States national security in the future.  The triangle of evidence grows even more complex when Sullivan discovers an extremely close relationship between Wilkinson and the first lady of China, who has taken up residence in the area just blocks away from the crime scene.  Red herrings abound with Sullivan confident that the case is solved and then being thrown a curveball that makes him question everything he has investigated.  After Sullivan gets a second break in the case all the pieces start to come together yet again or is this another false lead?

Chua takes multiple storylines and weaves an extraordinary plot together that addresses the uncertainties of the time, the difference in social classes and a series of crimes that shocked the community.  I cannot remember another book with such a unique plotline as The Golden Gate.  As in most historical fiction, it perfectly captures the history, struggles and realism of the era.  I particularly enjoyed the historical context and the internal struggles of Homicide Detective Al Sullivan, who tries to come to terms with his childhood while trying to navigate his future.  The Golden Gate also provides a fascinating glimpse at the United States immediately following World War II.  This is Chua’s first fiction novel and I am hopeful that The Golden Gate is the first of many by this author!


The Poet

Looking for an author who is not only prolific but a dependably good storyteller? Michael Connelly has written over 21 books, and continues to create new characters and develop relationships between old characters.

In The Poet, written in 1996, reporter Jack McEvoy’s brother has apparently committed suicide. Jack can’t believe that his twin brother, a homicide cop, would have killed himself. To clear his brother’s name, he starts to investigate several anomalies. This  leads Jack to research the deaths of homicide detectives around the country. Because he is a crime reporter for Denver newspaper, Jack can both write a story about the serial killings and find out what happened to his brother.

He ultimately combines forces with the FBI whose vast resources jump start the race to catch  the Poet. McEvoy knew that there was a serial killer when he found out that the various suicide notes contained lines from Edgar Allan Poe poems. What the FBI uncovers about the killings is very disturbing for Jack as he gains more knowledge about how his brother died.

Connelly’s skill is in combining an absorbing plot and likable protagonists; a great go-to guy when you just need a good read.

Missing by Karin Alvtegen

This great crime novel is translated from Swedish which adds a different flavor to the story. Certain things get added during translation or become more interesting when taken from slang. Sibylla the main character in Missing comes from a privleged background yet has chosen a life of the homeless in Stockholm. Brief snippets from Sibylla’s disturbing past help explain her modern day predicament. Her everyday struggle becomes almost unbearable after she is unjustly accused of a brutal murder. The story continues to pick up speed as Sibylla struggles to stay alive and hidden all the while trying to find the real killer with the help of a high school misfit. Great writer – I was easily transported into Sibylla’s world. The murder plot is well developed and unexpected.

Karin Alvtegen has received and been nominated for several literary awards. Interestingly she is the great-grand niece of the “Pippi Longstocking” series author, Astrid Lindgren.